Long-term exposure to cadmium (Cd) induces perturbation of kidney proximal tubular epithelial cells. Mitochondrial dysfunction in renal cortical cells may contribute to the pathogenesis of Cd-induced nephropathy. In this study, we examined the accumulation of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) with a large deletion and cellular senescence in the renal cortex. Wistar rats at 8 weeks of age were intraperitoneally injected with 1 mL of 1 mM CdCl(2) or saline, 3 times/week for 5, 20, 40, or 80 weeks. Mitochondrial Cd content in the renal cortex was quantified by atomic absorption analysis. Cytochrome c oxidase (CCO) and senescence-associated beta-galactosidase (SA-beta-gal) activity were determined in renal cortex by enzyme-histochemistry. mtDNA in total DNA extracted from the renal cortex was amplified by PCR, and mtDNA deletions, including 4,834-bp (nt8118-nt12937) deletion, were determined and semiquantified. After 40 weeks of Cd injection, Cd levels in the renal cortex reached a saturation level, and 30% of the level of the whole-cell fraction was found in the mitochondria. CCO activity in the renal cortex, which was predominantly found in proximal tubular cells, decreased after 40 weeks of Cd exposure. Expression of SA-beta-gal was detected primarily in the proximal tubular cells and significantly increased after 80 weeks of Cd exposure. After 40 weeks of study, accumulation of 4,834-bp deletion in mtDNA was evident in both groups of rats; however, the amount of the deletion was significantly greater in Cd-treated rats than in control rats. Our results indicate that long-term Cd exposure induced a post-regenerative state of proximal tubular cells, which accelerated accumulation of 4,834-bp mtDNA deletions in the renal cortex, suggesting that Cd may be a senescence acceleration factor for kidney proximal tubular epithelial cells, which results in Cd-induced nephropathy.